Recently, I experienced a crisis of confidence in my professional wrestling career and unfortunately, it took place at a PRIME pay-per-view show. The event known as Culture Shock turned out to be a complete disaster for me, Adam Ellis. I got my ass kicked and eliminated early in the battle royale. I completely… lost my shit… with my wife… Charlie Blackwell… and Ray McAvay… all in a space of twelve hours. Thankfully, Dawn McGill talked me off the ledge after Ray wanted to literally kick my sorry ass all the way back to Greenville, Texas. Charlie Blackwell talked me through what had gone wrong at Culture Shock and then we got to work on ReVival 26. Ginny… God bless her… talked me through the rest.
Two weeks later, I faced off against Cecilworth Farthington in the main event of ReVival 26 and with the experienced Dawn McGill by my side, who played a similar role to John Sektor in my early wrestling career as the ‘voice of reason’, I delivered my best overall performance in PRIME yet. Didn’t win. But still… I left the Paycom Arena in Oklahoma City with a much different outlook than I had from the AT&T Stadium outside Dallas after Culture Shock.
ReVival 27 took place in Kansas City, Missouri at the T-Mobile Arena two weeks later. Homecoming night. To be honest, I was disappointed not to get a chance to wrestle in front of my friends and family who’d driven to the show from my hometown of Warrensburg, Missouri. But I did get to come out with Ginny and have an in-ring chat with Matt Mills where I thanked basically everyone who’d been a part of my pro wrestling journey the past five years.
This month brought forth another crisis of confidence… this one with Ginny. A meeting to settle her father’s estate loomed near in mid-May and she had to finish up her end of it. We’d borrowed money based on the final settlement she would be receiving from her father’s estate to buy a house and move from the trailer in Greenville. On top of that, a buyer had stepped forward to buy her daddy’s house in McDowell, Kentucky… the house she grew up in before I came into her life… the only house she ever really knew.
Ginny struggled to let go of the house… found it very difficult to let go of the house. I stayed home from the ReVival 28 show to lend Ginny support and, more importantly, a shoulder to cry on.
“You knew this day was coming,” Adam says casually lounging on the couch, flipping through channels on the TV.
He stretches out his legs over the coffee table in the living room of the Ellis’s new house surrounded by boxes and furniture. Located in a housing development just west of Farmersville, Texas, a beautiful two-story structure with a front porch and a white picket fence. More importantly, the new house was a little closer to the Dallas metroplex. Ginny didn’t like having to change churches- especially when she was just getting comfortable with the people in Greenville. However, she did agree that the location would be more convenient for both her and Adam to get into Dallas. Ginny had picked up the manager position again for her cousins, the Kentucky Redneck Mafia, who wrestled in Blackwell’s Texas Championship Wrestling, so she would also be training at the Sportatorium.
In an adjacent room, Ginny is diligently working to confront the formidable pile of paperwork that has accumulated on the dining table.
Ginny sighed. “On one hand, ah reckon it’s good we finally own a house,” she says, voice full of frustration and eyes nearly glazed over from poring over her father’s will and associated documents for nearly five hours now. She looks up at the ceiling. “Thanks Daddy.”
Adam smiles. “I know, it’s amazing. But what’s wrong?”
“You know damn well, what’s wrong!” Ginny shoots back. “Ah’m feelin’ overwhelmed by thuh paperwork frum muh late daddy’s estate. It jus’ keeps pilin’ up an’ never seems tuh be complete.”
Adam continues to use the remote control to change the channels through an unending parade of cable channels. “I understand,” he says, half not paying attention. “But we’ll get through it together.”
Glaring in the general direction of Adam, Ginny grips the arm on his chair and suppresses a primal scream. “It’s becomin’ overwhelmin’. Ever tahm Ah reckon I’ve finished, there’s more paperwork tuh complete.”
Her frustration finally boils over. She finally gets up from the chair and marches to the living room.
“Ah jus’ want it all tuh be over. Ah feel like screamin’!”
Adam looks up… she’s near tears.
Ginny rolls her eyes and walks over to Adam. She sits on the couch next to him. Adam puts his arm around her and she doesn’t react much… she sits… arms crossed… and her face exudes her having a ‘cross’ disposition.
“Hey, it’s okay,” Adam says to her. “We’ll take a break and come back to it later.”
Ginny shoots Adam an annoyed look. “WE’LL come back tuh it later?” she responds, her anger rising up. “Do yew’ve inny idea how much work an’ tahm this here is goin’ tuh take me?”
“Just tackle one thing at a time,” says Adam, desperately trying to be helpful. “You got this.”
Unfortunately, Adam was only digging the hole even bigger.
“Dammit!” Ginny snaps at him. “I can’t just “tackle one thing at a time”! This is my father’s estate we’re talking about and dammit, I need to make sure everything is done correctly and on time.”
Adam puts his hand on her shoulder. How does he know when Ginny’s really upset with him? The Kentucky accent drops and the volume of her voice increases… exponentially. And she lets loose with colorful metaphors she wouldn’t normally use in everyday conversation.
Ginny looks contritely at the ceiling. “Sorry God.”
He tries a different tack… the supportive route. “I’m sorry, Ginny. I didn’t mean to make it sound like it’s not easy. I just don’t know how to help.”
Ginny sighs. “Ah know. It’s jus’ frustratin’. Ah thought buyin’ a new house would be excitin’, and it is. But all uh this estate paperwork is takin’ thuh fun out uh it.”
She takes a deep breath and places her head in her hands.
“Ah apologize. Ah’m overwhelmed. Ah’m strugglin’ tuh manage everthin’.”
“I know. I’m sure the closing on your dad’s house is next week isn’t helping either.”
“I know it has tuh be done. There’s no way we could have kept daddy’s house…” Ginny shakes her head sadly and wipes a tear away. “But it still hurts tuh let it go.”
Ginny throws her head back against the top of the couch.
“Ah shure wish daddy were here to help.”
Adam leans in and kisses her on the cheek.
“I know it’s tough, but I think you’re doing a great job. And your daddy would be proud of you for taking care of everything.”
Ginny glances at the ceiling and takes another deep breath. Her left hand moves over Adam’s right hand.
“Ah luv yew, Adam. Thank yew.”
“Love you, too.”
The couple sits in silence, surrounded by the paperwork and memories of Ginny’s late father.
Hayes Hanlon… a man with many nicknames. The Event Horizon. Home Run Hayes. Hammerin’ Hanlon. The Egg Beater? The Comeback Kid. All of them apropos to a man who has won the Universal Title twice… the Five-Star Title once… in the short time PRIME has returned to the wrestling scene and was also named the 2022 Rookie of the Year and the 2022 Breakout Wrestler of the Year.
You’ve been in some extraordinary matches… most notably, the recent three-way match with Rezin and Ivan Stanislav at Culture Shock… the epic Universal Hell in a Cell match with Rezin and Ivan Stanislav at Culture Shock. Stanislav’s mistake of throwing Rezin through the cell to the floor proved costly to him and presented an opportunity to you. You were alert enough and quick enough to capitalize on the opportunity and crawl over to get the pinfall before the towering Russian could climb down the cage.
For me, Culture Shock was exactly that… culture shock. A cold hard slap of reality to the face. A painful kick to the groin… one of the few things that did not actually happen to me in the battle royale match. The absolute convergence of everything that could have gone wrong… the absolute worst-case scenario. The proverbial getting taken to the woodshed moment of my young wrestling career. I’m coming into this match four weeks after I rebounded from Culture Shock by giving Cecilworth Farthington a much bigger challenge in the main event match that exceeded all of my expectations.
So here we are… a Tropical Turmoil qualifying match at ReVival 30 in Footprint Center- Phoenix, AZ. Hayes, once again, I’ll be the underdog in this fight. You’ll be looking to rebound from a tough loss to Brandon Youngblood four weeks ago that cost you the Universal Title. You’ll be looking to clinch your spot in Tropical Turmoil and what better way to do that than going up against a young rookie who’s still finding his way in the big, bad wrestling world? I’m under zero illusions here about my chances. I know that despite the improvement I continue to make in the ring I’m still not close to being the finished article. But I will promise you this much, when I step into the ring with you in Phoenix on June 16th I will be focused on one thing… putting forth the best effort I can muster up to try to do the exact same thing you want to do… clinch a spot at Tropical Turmoil. Be certain that come ReVival 30, I will be fully committed to giving everything I’ve got in order to secure a Tropical Turmoil spot.
The more I think about all I’ve done in the nine months since I signed on with PRIME; the more I’m convinced that in many ways, I had it too easy early on in my wrestling career. When I wrestled at High Octane Wrestling, I had John Sektor in my corner to ‘babysit’ the ‘youngster’… that was me… and help guide me through our matches. I had success very early on, winning the HOW Tag title with Sektor. After Sektor left and I returned to Missouri Valley Wrestling, I won the Men’s Title in my first match back. But again, I had Ray McAvay and Joe Bergman close by… just in case.
Since coming to PRIME, I haven’t had that security blanket and to be honest, I missed having that go-to person in my corner. I was grateful for Dawn McGill’s willingness to sacrifice her weekend and step up as that designated person in Oklahoma City. But now? It’s time for Adam Ellis to start standing on his own. Dawn did her job. She righted the ship… she brought calm and perspective to what happened at Culture Shock and she stabilized the situation successfully. I know going forward that I need to trust what Charlie Blackwell is trying to impart to me and acknowledge that I must rely on his guidance because he’s been there and knows what he’s talking about. I know I can count on Ginny’s support and she’ll be in my corner going forward.
But, in the process of going through all that, I realized there’s another thing that’s been missing…
Somewhere driving back to Texas after I ‘ran away’ to Missouri, I came to an epiphany- I’d fallen out of love with pro wrestling. I remember how important wrestling was to me when I was a child. My friends would laugh at me when I brought pro wrestling magazines to school with stars like Lindsay Troy, Dan Ryan, Michael Best, among others on the cover. I developed a passion for wrestling and made this gangly, string bean of a teenager strive to get in shape, learn the moves, be motivated to practice and practice, and relish the thrill of wrestling on those old mats in the Warrensburg High School gym and trying to outwit or pin my opponent. I remember ol’ Coach Linfield… his favorite motivational saying was “TAKE YOUR CHANCES WHEN YOU GET THE OPPORTUNITY!”
I remember going home to Warrensburg last March… one win away from winning the HOW Tag belts… when everything was fresh and new and, yeah, fun. I held court with former high school wrestling teammates Charlie Kennedy, A.J. Phelps, and Mike McWilliams before I had to return to St. Louis to get down to the business of preparing himself for… at the time… the biggest match of my life. When I’d last shown up at Heroes a few months before, Adam Ellis was a nervous rookie teaming up with a HOW Hall of Famer and trying to get his footing in HOW. By March of 2022, I sat on the cusp of potentially winning the HOW Tag Team title with John Sektor.
I remember it well…
“Here’s to Mr. Big Shot Pro Wrestler,” Charlie cries out. He raises up a mug of beer. “From a Warrensburg Tiger to one half of the HOW Tag Team Champions!”
“HERE, HERE!” the others shout. They tip their heads back and guzzle down the beer inside their mugs.
“We’re not there yet guys,” cautions Adam after the last drop of beer slid down his throat. He places the mug down firmly on the table and checks his cell phone. “Got one match to do.”
Mike McWilliams asked me how it felt to be a tag team champion. I had to hit the brakes on that talk. The problem was we hadn’t won anything yet. Our opponents at March to Glory would be Conor Fuse and David Noble. Not just good but really, really good. I remember telling myself this wasn’t wrestling J.J. Bittinger at the Tony’s Pizza Events Center in Salina, Kansas. This was wrestling at the Best Arena in Chicago, Illinois before twenty thousand HOW maniacs against two world-class wrestling superstars. My friends thought this would be a done deal that Sektor and I would win the belts. I had to explain to them just what I was going up against.
“Conor Fuse is a two-time HOW world champion,” Adam said, “and he has had an outstanding career over at Defiance Wrestling. David Noble walked in the door after being away for a few years and wrestled for the HOTv title. He’s a former Southern Heritage Champion at Defiance too. I’ve watched him wrestle. David Noble is one of those bad ass, grizzled veteran guys who gives zero fucks. He doesn’t care. He’ll do anything to win he has to do and needs to do to win the match”
It was all fun and fresh back then… so fun and fresh. The young kid and the grizzled veteran winning the HOW Tag Team title over Fuse and Noble at March to Glory and I saw stars in my eyes and a golden road to more glory in front of my face. Now, it feels like the full-time job that this is and maybe that’s been the hardest adjustment I’ve had to make. Week in, week out can be a grind. When PRIME was in Vegas, it was simple. Work out on the off week. Fly to Vegas the week of the show. Now, we’re flying to different locales and it’s harder to keep a routine.
I guess what I’m saying Hayes is this. I’ve learned a lot of things over the past six weeks. Some hard lessons. Mostly, I’ve learned to have a little perspective. Adam Ellis is still at his core a kid. I’ve allowed the ‘business’ end of this business drag me down and suck out some of the joy and happiness that getting ready for a wrestling match used to bring me.
Some of this is just growing up… I get that. But wrestling has been such an integral part of my life for as long as I can remember… I don’t want to lose that. While winning titles isn’t a priority for me yet, I still want to win next Friday night and go to Tropical Turmoil. I still want to start moving forward in my career and up in the wrestler rankings. I still want to work and maximize the talent I have. I still want to be the best wrestler I can be.
So next Friday in Phoenix, Hayes Hanlon will get the best version of Adam Ellis… a rested, relaxed, and young man who’s still learning every time he sets foot inside a wrestling ring. Is it enough to defeat Hayes Hanlon? Well, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. But if I lose, it won’t be for anything more than the fact that Hayes Hanlon was the better man in our match. If I win, it’s a major step forward for Adam Ellis and it will present an opportunity for me at Tropical Turmoil.
A beautiful, house stands in the middle of a vast meadow in a valley surrounded by hills outside rural McDowell, Kentucky. Ginny Van Lear gazes at the house… her house with a sense of nostalgia and profound sadness knowing that this would probably be the last time she’ll ever set foot inside of it.
“Do you want me to go in with you?” Adam asks her. It had already been an emotional morning for Ginny as they’d stopped at the gravesite of her mother and father on the way to McDowell.
Ginny nods no. “I’ll be fine,” she softly says. “Need to do this myself.”
She takes a deep breath and starts walking towards the house. Stepping inside the house, Ginny sees that the living room is empty, except for a few boxes stacked in one corner. She walks towards her father’s favorite armchair and runs her hand over it, feeling the memories flood back. Remembering the times she’d sat on her daddy’s lap while he read to her. Her father loved that chair. Not only did he read to her on the chair, many evenings, but he would also read books and the Bible in the chair for hours upon hours on end.
Ginny continues walking around the house, stopping at each room, and reminiscing about the past. She climbed the stairs and walked into her old bedroom, which is now empty. In her mind, she could see where her bed used to be. The dresser. Some of her MMA equipment. Dolls. Toys. She could see in her mind some of her childhood friends who spent hours with Ginny inside her room as they played, talked, and dreamt about their future.
Ginny backs out of the room and walks back downstairs. She leaves through the backdoor and goes to the barn. Now empty, Ginny can envision where her MMA practice area once was… the punching bag she used to work on her strikes… where she’d worked on her quickness, jumping rope or other exercises… where she used to spar- much to her father’s objection- against boys her own age… and more than hold her own.
She walks around the stone sidewalk her father put in five years ago and finds Adam waiting for her patiently by the front porch.
“Are you okay?” he asks her.
“No. Not really.” Ginny wipes a tear out of her eye. “Ahm ready to go.”
The couple head back to Adam’s Volkswagen Jetta and get in. Adam starts up the car but before he can put it on the satellite radio station he likes to listen to when he drives, Ginny has a simple request.
“No music. I just wanna think… and pray… in silence.”
Adam nods and hits the button that turns off the radio.
“I’ve got a big match coming up against Hayes Hanlon,” Adam admits. “I probably could use a little silence too.” .